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Christmas brings only sadness in devastated Philippines village

Christmas brings only sadness in devastated Philippines village

Christmas yesterday brought little cheer to the residents of Busay village in the Philippines, still grieving for the loved ones and homes lost in a massive mudslide barely a month ago.
Instead of celebrating in their homes with friends and family, like the rest of the Philippines, the survivors of the typhoon-sparked mudslides huddled in tents in a ruined school that had been converted into an evacuation center in the storm-ravaged Bicol region.
Busay was just one of many villages that was buried when typhoon Durian hit the Philippines on November 30, bringing heavy rains that mixed with the ash on the slopes of nearby Mayon volcano to form deadly mudslides.
The mudslides swept down the slopes of Mayon, leaving more than a thousand people dead and missing.
At the evacuation center, farmer Joseph Semanas, 38, his wife and three children busied themselves clearing the weeds around their tent.
"Last night, I could not sleep. I could only think of how sad our Christmas was," he recalled.
Instead of celebrating with a traditional Christmas party where food was made freely available to neighbors, Semanas and his family had to make do with some bacon and a loaf of bread donated by local residents.
"It is shameful that we have to beg for aid on this Christmas day," he said mournfully.
Ariel Llaguno, 45, was working as an engineer in Qatar when he received a telephone call from his family in Busay during the mudslide.
A son called to him, saying "daddy, the flood is here. What do we do?"
He told the family by telephone to open the doors so the floodwaters could rush through the house without knocking it down.
He remembers his wife saying, "I will handle things here. Just be careful over there." That was the last he heard from her.
Nightmare
Neighbors told him they saw the concrete house being carried away like a cardboard box by the mudslide with the terrified faces of Llaguno's wife and four children, visible in the windows. His brother, a sister and other relatives also died that night.
"I am not an evil person like Hitler. Why did this happen to me? It is like a nightmare. Everything I worked for, for 15 years, has all been wiped out, along with my family," he said as he looked at pictures of his family in their now-vanished house.
"If I had only one dead, I would be crying but with so many dead, I cannot cry anymore," he said.
The traditional Christmas eve mass at the Busay evacuation center was more like a funeral. At the end of the services, the survivors of Busay formed a procession, carrying candles as they walked to their former homes.
The only sign of their once-thriving village were the roofs of houses, still sticking out from the mud along with pieces of clothing still strewn about.
In his Christmas sermon Father Romeo Cerojanes, called for unity amid hardship. "Let us always help each other and share the burden during this time of crisis," he remarked.
For Christmas, the 1,500 people at the evacuation center received some boxes of ham, donated by a charitable individual.
Rotary International and the British charity Shelterbox have also provided tents for the refugees who had been huddling in overcrowded classrooms.
Shelterbox volunteer, Mark Smith, a British police officer, continued to provide relief to the evacuees. "We're lucky to be here this Christmas, to help people and give service."


Updated : 2021-02-26 04:25 GMT+08:00